THWACKcamp Day Two Wrap-Up

It’s hard to believe another THWACKcamp is now behind us. As I mentioned yesterday, for many of us it will take days—if not longer—to fully process what we’ve heard in these sessions and shared in chat. Not only is that OK, it’s emblematic of our work as IT practitioners. The very best information—whether it’s something we read a book or hear in a class or watch online—stays with us, slowly filtering into our conscious awareness, and from there into our daily habits.

While I have some thoughts about today’s specific sessions, I first want to remind you that:

And Now, the Summary You’ve Been Waiting For

Some General Observations

Throughout the event, a few different types of interactions and comments kept cropping up, and caught my eye every time:

  • I just figured out why my hired me... I can translate IT to Don’t-Know-IT
  • Ad-hoc friendships
    • (Person1) @person2 we could talk offline if you want. I can give my info.
    • (Person2) @person1 I’ll catch you on THWACK. thanks man.
    • (Person1) @person2 up with me on THWACK and I can point out great info I have found.
  • And ad-hoc offers/requests for help
    • (Person3) @person4 pm me on THWACK. I’d like to pick your brain.
  • I need to re-watch all of this and throttle that fire hose.

But the one that just blew me (and many of the other SolarWinds folks) away was:

  • I’m upgrading my Orion installation. Right. Now.

The expression of both confidence that you can upgrade a major application during a live event; and how the folks in the event are there to help if things go wonky was both inspiring and heartwarming for this old monitoring engineer in ways difficult to express here in a blog post.

CIO 2020 Hot Take: The Year of the IT Pro part 1

  • I think this has really pushed the need and desire for IT changes and improvements.
  • For my team, I know that the mothership fought for years against having our level 4 engineer be someone remote, fortunately my predecessor broke that glass ceiling after years of battling... also because at one point they didn’t have anyone at HQ who was able to take the role.

CIO 2020 Hot Take: The Year of the IT Pro part 2

  • I love the Uni approach to working with peers at other Uni’s to open discussion amongst yourselves. Enterprises could do more in this area.
  • I thought I was busy this year, but due to this pandemic I’m going to be even busier next year with all the SolarWinds products that is budgeted for the coming year.
  • I think I lot of companies are going to continue the concept and encouragement of remote work even after covid, I know we are, in the case that other issues arise but also they will see the effectiveness of it and how it can cut costs for the company.

SD-WAN—What, How, and Why It’s Got Your Number

One of the most comforting things to hear in this session for me was how “SD-WAN” is a mixture of things across vendors, geographic locations, and even individual implementations.

  • Looked at it for 2020 and skipped it but might bring it back up for a 2022 project.
  • A LOT of variations of SD-WAN. That’s for sure.
  • I used to work at a very large insurance company that had a couple of SDWAN providers. Very different level of service available between providers and dependent on location.

The Perfect Lab—Cloud and GNS3

This may have been the session I was most excited to see go live. It was also the hardest one to pull together. Along with the eBook (which you can find here: this session could not have happened without the assistance of several amazing folks. If you pop open the eBook, you’ll get to read all about them.

Monitoring for Managers—What You Need to Know to Sound Like a Monitoring Expert

Expect to see more of this—both the specific feature called “Monitoring for Managers” and the emphasis on how managers are as much a part of our technical team as the SysAdmins, network engineers, DevOps practitioners, and so on.

  • This is definitely the session I’ve been waiting for. I just recently joined the Admin Team and will be tasked with ownership of Monitoring.
  • I put a boundary there when they did a discovery and started added client machines to Orion... ugh no we’re not monitoring client machines unless for a specific purpose!
  • Don’t: manual, repetitive stuff we either offload repetitive tasks (eq device management) or automate it whenever possible.
  • I have a process in place called Application Reviews that basically I create run book that goes over what’s monitored, alerted and who is responsible to fix it. Each discipline is represented in these meetings, i.e., Server, application, storage, db, network etc.

Coffee break

  • These are the reason we come to THWACKcamp every year. There are also some technical presentations.

How to “People” Better

Over the last few months, I’ve had several chances to speak with Kevin Townsend on a range of topics. Each time is an absolute delight.

  • Be able to speak tech to the bean counters. And have them understand, without making them feel stupid, because they are just as smart or smarter.
  • Your business will give you feedback if they are not receiving the information they want from you, and this is not an adversarial request.
  • I sit in many meetings with CFOs, CEOs, Board members, and PhD’s explaining why we need to spend thousands, to when building a brand-new facility millions. But they must understand on their terms. Just like when they talk to us about money, they need to talk to us on our terms, and why they want forecasts, and plans.

Call Them “Soft Skills.” One. More. Time.

This session reminded me of a quote from Corey Quinn: “If you call human interaction abilities ‘soft skills,’ it’s blindingly apparent that your job doesn’t depend upon them. They’re hard as hell to get right, and denigrating people who specialize in them diminishes you. Stop it.”

  • I started my work-life in customer service and food service. Then Navy, then Network Administrator I really appreciate getting those people skills, and it’s second nature to me now. And my work is SOOO much smoother thanks to good customer service!
  • Most users don’t care if it takes you two days to fix their issue. They just don’t want to feel as if they are being ignored for two days straight. Just communicate.
  • New things are scary but take small steps and get out of that comfort zone; I am also an introvert but slowly changing and improving for the better both professionally and personally.
  • People skills, this by far, has been one of the most important sessions of THWACKcamp!

Avoiding IT Burnout: I Can != I Should

This session clearly hit home for a lot of attendees. Myself included.

  • Burnout is real. Too many people deny that this is happening when they really need to ask for help.
  • This is my 3rd year in IT. It was a rough road, but it has grown considerably smoother now that I understand the path
  • I once had a manager who said, “plan your bads.” He said “Some of the worst things have to be resolved. Decide the time to deal with all the bads. Schedule them in regularly and attack them like a task. Then you can spend the rest of your time working on the things you like.”

Reducing Vulnerability and Improving Compliance: Lessons Learned from Federal Customers

  • Things have changed since I was in... we monitored our systems by having a person physically watch it! lol.
  • Extra points in this session for explaining all of the acronyms in military and DoD.

Leading-Edge Deployments and Customer Innovations

I would have copied down more comments, but with Sascha and Holger doing the presenting, most of the commentary was in German!

Threat Detectives

“Your face is impossible” will go down as one of the high points of THWACKcamp for many of us.

  • I find all kinds of troubleshooting options in SEM... just today I found some new GitLab-runner events that I didn’t know about helping to solve a problem.
  • As a noob this is fascinating lol.
  • We need more of this use causes. It’s great.
  • This could potentially replace a different AD Management tool we use that is horrible.

Orion Dashboard Tuning: Making the Message Match the Audience

  • I will say this: I love customization. SolarWinds screams customization. But it takes a knowledgeable administrator to harness that power properly. Or it could go foul in many ways. I have seen, but I have learned.
  • THWACK is an amazing resource, and only gets better as more people participate!
  • Perfect for newer user to SolarWinds working on setting up usable Dashboards. Thank you and your team is doing a great job.

The Mostly Un-Necessary Summary

Looking back over the last two days, it’s incredible to consider the sheer magnitude of ideas we’ve shared together; connections and even friendships we’ve made; and new techniques, tools, and tricks we want to go back to our respective labs or offices and try out. Thank you again for carving out a few precious hours out of your hectic week to share with us. We at SolarWinds hope to see you again before it’s time for THWACKcamp 2021, whether it’s in the chat on SolarWinds Lab; in the comments section of a post or discussion on; or at an upcoming SolarWinds User Group (SWUG).

Until then, I’m asking you to help keep the THWACKcamp conversation going by offering up your reflections in the comments below. What were your favorite moments of the last two days? What trick, tool, or technique are you going to try first? Is there any session you plan to share with colleagues? We want to hear what you think!

Thwack - Symbolize TM, R, and C